In my blog post of 15 October I posted a letter I had received from Alison Munro concerning the relocation of electricity pylons as a result of HS2. I have now written a further letter to Ms Munro which is enclosed below.
Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category
Last year both John Bercow and I went to the offices of the Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust to collect a petition signed by more than 1300 VAHT tenants from all parts of Aylesbury Vale protesting about the fact that prepayment meters for gas and electricity attract premium charges despite the fact that these meters are often used by some of the poorest people in society.
During that meeting, I talked to constituents from Aylesbury and Wendover who told me that they and their neighbours simply could not afford to keep their houses warm or to have hot baths or showers as often as they would wish.
John and I agreed that action needed to be taken. Surely energy companies should offer the lowest possible rate to vulnerable households.
Now normally an MP who wants to talk to a Minister has to ask for an appointment and (assuming that the request is granted) has to walk through the relevant department for a meeting. However, the Speaker of the House of Commons is able to ask ministers to call him to discuss issues that concern his constituents-and it is an imprudent Minister who declines such an invitation! So today John and I had a meeting at Speaker’s house with two ministers: John Healey, responsible for housing policy, and David Kidney, responsible for energy.
We handed over the petition from our constituents and discussed the problems that they were facing. It was a constructive conversation and the ministers told us that because of the figure of the campaign for by residents in Aylesbury Vale and throughout the country, they had now made a change to the regulations governing energy supply. OfGEM, the official regulator for gas and electricity suppliers, now has a new duty to stop the biggest six suppliers from imposing premium charges on prepayment meters. The only additional charge that they are now allowed to make is to cover the cost of installing and operating the meter. In addition, OfGEM is supposed not to sit back and wait for complaints from customers but to check for itself to make sure that the energy companies are doing what they are supposed to do.
According to the Ministers, our constituents who have prepayment meters should already be starting to see some reduction in the cost of their fuel. I shall certainly be checking both with the housing trust and with individual tenants to make sure that these promises are actually being delivered. Provided that things are as we were assured they would be, I think that we can take some encouragement from this story. It shows that public action through the normal democratic channels can actually change things. And it shows that politicians from different political parties (or in the case of Mr Speaker of no party) can find common ground.